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The Basic Grammar Rules of Writing a Non-Fiction Book

By Brian Scott

You need to follow many style rules to write your book. Some rules may apply to every word, while other rules may apply to its general composition. Either way, you should follow these rules as you work on your book. Your goal is to capture your audience’s attention and strengthen the message you want to get across to your readers. Here are a few examples of these basic writing rules.

Tip 1: Use An Active Voice

When writing — especially non-ficiton — make sure you use n active voice as often as possible. Writing in active voice simply means the subject is performing the verb. This is much more preferable for most instances as compared to a passive voice. A passive voice makes readers think backwards and could leave them wondering who exactly is the doer of the action.

Writing in active voice shortens your sentences and makes your writing sound more direct and formal.


PASSIVE: The recipe book is read by her.

ACTIVE: She reads the recipe book.

PASSIVE: The radio announcement should be listened to by everyone.

ACTIVE: Everyone should listen to the radio announcement.

PASSIVE: The photo is being taken by the photographer.

ACTIVE: The photographer is taking the photo.

By using an active voice for most parts of your book, you can avoid dragging the story, which could bore your readers. For example, instead of saying, “The ball was hit by Roy,” it would be better to write, “Roy hit the ball.”

Tip 2: Use Concrete Words Instead of Vague Language

Always use specific and concrete words rather than vague and general words. Instead of saying “apparent considerable monetary gains,” you can easily say “a lot of money” or “one million dollars.” Not only are you saving yourself effort by writing this way, but you are also making it easier for your readers to understand your point immediately. Using vague descriptions can lose your readers’ interests.

Tip 3: Always Properly Cite Your Sources

When using passages from the works of other authors, please remember to properly cite them in your book. Try to paraphrase, instead of directly quoting from your original sources. Paraphrasing in your own words makes you more ethical by not plagiarizing, but also proves to your readers that you’ve done your research, thus making you sound more convincing and credible as an author.

Tip 4: Remember Your Subject-Verb Agreement

Always remember to make your subject and verb agree with each other, and not with a word that comes in between them. If your subject is singular, then make sure the verb in your sentence is also singular. For example, it is correct to say, “Janice, like her brothers, has been going to school there,” instead of “Janice, like her brothers, have been going to school there.”

Tip 5: Omit Unnecessary Words

In this example: “I would like to exclaim that I truly consider her as quite an incomprehensible idiot,” we can see I’ve include too many unnecessary words. Unnecessary words tire the reader and makes the sentence more difficult to comprehend. By saying, “I think she is an idiot,” you make your readers understand what your mean instead of making things complicated.

Tip 6: Properly Arrange Where You Place Pronouns or Appositives

Arrange the pronoun or appositives properly in your sentences and make sure they refer to the right subject. For example, instead of saying, “Its mouth filled with dog food, Lorena picked up the puppy from the basket,” you should say, “Lorena picked up the puppy, its mouth filled with dog food, from the basket.” You will not confuse your readers about who your subject is with the descriptions.

These rules are just some of the most basic. Many writers still forget these rules. Since your goal is to write a book your readers can understand and comprehend, stick to these basic rules to write correctly.

About the Author: Brian Scott is founder of Book Proposal Writing ( ), a free website that teaches you how to write a book proposal. Download your free sample book proposal today.


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